Israeli Army Approves Moving Illegal Settlement Outpost to Contested Palestinian Land

West Bank commander issues directive to divide plots near Amona into smaller parcels; Palestinians can now lay claim to just part of the property.

A Jewish man covered in a prayer shawl, prays in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank December 18, 2016.
BAZ RATNER/REUTERS

The Israel Defense Forces approved an order which allows Israel to move the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona to adjacent lots, despite the fact that Palestinians claim the land as their own and contest the move's validity.

The order, signed by OC Central Command Major Gen. Roni Numa, amends previous directives and relates to a number of lots near the outpost whose status as "abandoned [Palestinian] property is under examination.

The Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din had already filed objections on behalf of local Palestinians who say that they have ownership claims to these plots, and thus claim that the land cannot be considered "abandoned" property.

The plots in question are numbered 28, 29, 30, 38 and 54. Three are adjacent to one another and create territorial contiguity. All are within several hundred meters of Amona's current location, sometimes even closer.

Map of West Bank outpost of Amona

There is no question that all the plots are privately owned, but the state maintains that they belong to Palestinians who have left the area, and therefore it is treating the land as abandoned property.

The new IDF order authorizes the state to divide each plot in question into a number of smaller lots, in the event that a Palestinian seeks to lay claim to just part of the land. Thus, for example, if a Palestinian asserts a claim to one-tenth of a particular plot, the plot could be “broken up” so that he receives rights to 10 percent of it, while the state will still have custody over the rest of it, under the assumption that it is classified as abandoned property.

Jewish settlers cook food in a field in the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, Dec. 18, 2016.
Oded Balilty/AP

The new directive says that the state can renew its custody arrangement every two years, instead of every eight months as the previous order stipulated.

Sources explain that the legal opinion upon which the transfer of the Amona residents to adjacent “abandoned” plots was based was written by Justice Uri Shoham, when he served as chief military prosecutor. It proposes that custody of abandoned property will be maintained in this way for up to three years before renewal of the arrangement.

The Amona outpost, built illegally in the mid-1990s on private Palestinian land near the Ofra settlement in the central West Bank, was due to be evacuated in December. However, in the wake of a compromise reached between the settlers and the state, Israel's High Court approved a 45-day postponement of the move, until February 8.